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The Sixth Annual Conference on Proximity amongst the Islamic Schools of Thought

The Sixth Annual Conference on Proximity amongst the Islamic Schools of Thought
Saturday 29 September 2012 – Islamic Centre of England

Differences of opinion amongst the Ummah have always been a feature of Islamic thought. Even during the time of the Prophet his companions often differed amongst themselves over how to interpret his commands and sometimes even had alternative viewpoints to the Messenger of God. The Prophet himself saw nothing inherently wrong with this. Indeed he is reported to have said: `Differences of opinion amongst my Ummah are a mercy`.
Differences of opinion are an inevitable outcome of human nature. They are a function of our individuality. Every human being is unique from the point of view of his social conditioning, personal experiences, thought processes, abilities, and personal circumstances. The viewpoints he forms and the decisions he arrives at are the result of a complex interplay of these and other factors.
Over the centuries Islamic thought itself has been marked by its many differing positions on issues. Yet behind these differences is an underlying commonality and unity that often struggles to make itself heard. It is with a view to exploring and emphasising these similarities that the Annual Conference on Proximity Amongst the Islamic Schools of Thought was inaugurated six years ago.
This year’s theme was “The Civilizing Role of Proximity in Achieving Social Peace”. Held at the Islamic Centre of England last September the conference was attended by a variety of distinguished Islamic personalities, intellectuals and scholars from Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Iraq, France, Pakistan, India, Yemen, Australia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Kingdom.
In his keynote speech the director of the Islamic Centre of England, Hujjatulislam Abdul Hussein Moezi, reminded the participants that Islamic unity is a lofty ideal and a Qur’anic demand, something rooted in the nature of humanity itself. He called upon all Muslims to strive to carry out Islamic unity especially in the light of the Islamic Awakening Movement, more popularly known in the West as the Arab Spring. Referring to the aim of the conference he emphasised utilizing common experiences and ideas to get as close as possible to the realization of a unified Islamic community and create a brighter future for Muslims.
The General Secretary of the International Assembly for Proximity among Islamic Schools of Thought, Ayatollah Araki, referred to the Qur’anic decree of common identity and unity among the Muslim community and said that this directive has echoed in the Muslim world throughout history despite racial, geographical and cultural differences. He said that human communities gravitate to the leadership of one whose values and behaviours are crystallised in his own character. The Muslim community finds its identity in the person of its Prophet and should attempt to forge a civilization which is the essence of his being and his character, and this can be the basis of unity among Muslims.
In a letter to the conference Shaykh Muhammad Abdul Ghani Ashur, former secretary of the Al-Azhar University of Egypt and member of the Islamic Research Association, traced the emergence of various schools of thought in Islam to the propagation work by the Companions of the Prophet after his death and to the variety of Islamic opinions based on diverse understanding dictated by various circumstances. He also pointed out that these differences existed in an atmosphere of tolerance and not extremism.
The conference showed a consensus and a common desire between the participants that inspired hope for the ideal of Islamic unity. This was reflected in their fourteen point resolution underlining the importance of the role of culture.

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